Long day for me today and tomorrow. Today I run my day women’s prison workshop and my men’s evening group.
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-=[ Relationship Addiction ]=-
Some of this has some scary implications especially for online relationships…
When I first came into recovery, there was a humorous catch phrase regarding addicts recovering from the “waist down.” This was a reference to the tendency of addicts acting out in different ways. And it is often true that if you put down one addiction, another one pops up somewhere. I was fortunate in that I had a really good guide in my early recovery and he helped me see clearly that addiction wasn’t about a substance, but a process.
Those who have read my 12-step posts, already now that the First Step of Narcotics Anonymous talks about being powerless over our addiction. It doesn’t say alcohol, sex, heroin – it says addiction.
So it makes sense that if you’re not addressing the core issue of addiction, it's going to manifest itself in other ways, relationships being a very easy and seductive lure. I’ve seen people addicted to God, religion, dogma, money -- almost anything under the sun. By far, the biggest issues in the rooms of recovery revolved around relationships. People were coming to and realizing that their relationship patterns were intimately tied to their addictive process. I certainly needed no coaching with regard to my manner of relating. It was easy for me to look at the wreckage of my past relationships and see that I didn’t know jack muthafuckin shit. LOL!
The first time I mainlined heroin, my dick got hard and from then on it was clear that hand-in-hand with drugs, my story involved a series of dysfunctional relationships with women. Drugs and women: the getting and using (and being used) by both. I never thought of myself as a relationship addict, nor do I now, looking back. But I do think I can become one very easily. I also believe that relationship addiction is a huge problem in our society because it is widespread and because very few people acknowledge it.
There are basically two types of relationship addiction. In the first, the person is addicted to having a relationship (let's call it Type I). It doesn’t matter what kind of relationship -- real or imagined. In the second, the person is addicted to a particular person (we’ll call that Type II). In the first type, the person is addicted to the idea, and in the latter, the person is hooked to the person.
A Type I relationship addict is someone who is addicted to the concept of a relationship. I once heard someone share that relationship addicts don’t have relationships, they take hostages. LOL! They relate to their idea of a relationship, and the reality of the other person is irrelevant. Both types are willing to sacrifice almost anything in order to hold on to the illusion of being in a relationship. In fact, in Type I relationship addiction the illusion itself is what provides the fix. For relationship addicts the fantasy or belief that they have a relationship is the mood-changer. The obsession is with the relationship, not with the person. The accepted model of the cycle of addiction holds true for relationship addicts:
Preoccupation: an obsession with a relationship, which has a mood-altering quality to it, and a total absorption in the relationship.
Ritualization: engaging in behaviors that are related to “keeping a relationship” such as losing weight, becoming more attractive with a new hairstyle or wardrobe. Also, ritualized “courting” behavior may be included.
Compulsive Relationship Behavior: Establishing a behavior as soon as possible, discussing and/ or doing “marriage” from zero to sixty or trying in other ways to nail down the relationship and then holding on to dear life.
Despair: the awareness that the “fix” is not working and feeling hopeless and powerless in the face of that awareness.
Type I relationship addicts want a relationship. In their diseased thinking, they have little concern for who or what the person is, they just want someone. They do not perceive a relationship as an evolving process; they don’t check to see things like values and goals match. They just “go for it.” (Gawd! That one hit too close to home! LOL)
The thing is that relationship addicts are great cons. They have developed skills based on their obsession -- creating dysfunctional relationships.
Both types of relationship addicts often have developed skills in the areas of listening, sharing feelings (though not real ones), “being present,” and paying attention that are quite seductive. In fact, because of these skills, relationship addicts are hard to detect (by themselves and others). Relationship addicts have absorbed all the how-to relationship books that flood the market and have probably devoutly practiced all the exercises, becoming experts in the techniques of relationship. Most importantly, relationship addicts use what could be called the “openness” con. They use skills that appear to develop a relationship for manipulation and control. They seem to do the ‘right” thing in relationships. Both types of relationship addicts know and practice social interaction skills but don’t know how to be friends and establish genuine intimacy. In fact, they fear intimacy and are happier with the illusion of intimacy.
Both types of relationship addicts are absolutely terrified of being alone, and when no one else is around, they actually believe they are alone. That’s why they move constantly from one relationship to another. They never take the time to grieve the termination of a relationship and in that way they bring all the baggage of their previous relationship into a new one.
Relationship addicts lie to themselves and others and are controlling in nature. They will lie to themselves and others about the sacrifices they make in order to stay in a relationship and they believe they can make a relationship work through sheer force of will. They will make another person love them through their tenacity and they become increasingly more controlling, blaming, and defensive the more you love them.
Men who are relationship addicts believe that they cannot survive without a woman, and women relationship addicts believe they cannot exist without a man (the same holds true for gay relationship addicts). Persons suffering from this addiction look to the relationship to validate them. They have no concept of establishing an identity on their own, hence they suffer from lack of boundaries.
Relationship addicts are molded by popular culture. For example, taking their cue from popular songs, they believe that suffering and love are connected. They go together -- if you’re not suffering then you’re not in love.
I believe religious institutions and society play a pivotal role in the creation of relationship addiction. Both hold that normal people are in relationships. And much of our society and its moral structures are predicated on that assumption. The church, with its sexual obsession, does not consider people normal until they are coupled. Single persons are a threat to the church community, which revolves around couples and families.
It’s the same within the larger social context. During their development, children are bombarded with popular music and films/ videos that push addictive relationships. In the lyrics they learn they are nothing without a relationship, that relationships move from one crisis to another, and that to be in a relationship means to suffer.
The effects of relationship addiction on our society hasn’t been measured, but it’s just as destructive (if not more) than any substance abuse and probably a lot more widespread. Which makes me wonder the transformation that would occur if whole groups of people began questioning the status quo of church, society, and popular culture and began recovering from relationship addiction.